5 ways to raise money for your expeditions if you cannot find sponsorship

I receive many requests from people for advice on how to raise sponsorship to support the cost of their expeditions or adventures (In fact  I get so many requests I wrote this article giving 10 practical tips on how to do it yourself).

I also frequently hear from a number of people who cannot embark on their expeditions due to a lack of sponsorship.

I have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for my expeditions throughout the years and I would like to share some good and bad news with you.

The BAD NEWS is that if you are using the excuse that you cannot go on your expedition due to lack of sponsorship – you are telling a lie.  If you really want to go on an expedition, you will find a way to do it. You will find a way to overcome every single hurdle put in front of you. Raising necessary funds is just ONE of those hurdles. The beautiful thing about taking on massive challenges is that it forces you out of your comfort zone and shows just how much you really want it.

So how do you raise that money then?

Well, the GOOD NEWS is that there are many ‘other’ legitimate and legal ways to raise dollars without going down the sponsorship route.

Here I will share with you 5 tips how you can raise money for your expedition WITHOUT getting sponsorship. Each of these tips I have used successfully myself in the past so I know they work!

1. Corporate Keynote Speaking.

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Me giving an ‘Axe on Everest’ keynote, a story I have given at least 100 times now and raised a great deal of $ for future expeditions.

Learning to tell a really good story about your adventure and especially the lessons you learned through it, which can translate to a corporate context is one sure-fire way of making money.  Good keynote speaker can pull in anywhere from $500 to $10,000/talk, depending on their level of experience SPEAKING, their profile (how famous are they?), and how much VALUE they can persuade the client they can give to their audience.   I have been professionally speaking for 6 years now, and it is the number one source of raising funds to support my expeditions (my next expedition ROWING from HOME to HOME has a budget of $250,000).  The problem here is that professional speaking is a profession, it is a skill that takes years to develop, and not everyone can master it, however if you are prepared to put in the effort, the rewards are there.

(The good news here is that I can help you develop your keynote address. I am a professional speaking coach and I specialise in working with professional and aspiring professional speakers to “define, refine and shine” a polished keynote address that will literally knock your audience out of the park. Visit my website or contact me on axe@axeoneverest.com to learn more)


2. Run an event

For a successful fund-raising event you will need the following ingredients:

  • A great venue (preferably for free)
  • Fantastic entertainment (preferably for free)
  • Sumptuous food and/or drinks (preferably for free or low-cost as possible)
  • Lots of people (who will pay money to attend your fantastic event)

282 Rugby 6 nationsSo how do you do this? Let me give you an example how I ran mine:

The venue – I found a new, upcoming sports bar in the city which was looking to raise its profile and wanted to introduce itself onto the scene as the premier bar to go to in town for sports people. I visited them and told them in return for them supplying me their venue for the evening, I would bring along at least 150 new customers, all sports people themselves, definite repeat customer potential and the event would be great exposure for their new bar.  They agreed to this as a fair value exchange in return for offering the venue for free.

The entertainment – Rugby players when not playing rugby like to do two things, drink beer and watch rugby.  I chose a night when an international rugby match was being played live on television.  It was free to watch and as far as rugby players go, the best thing they could think of watching that particular evening so that solved the entertainment problem.

Food and drinks – Rugby players love beer. I asked the bar to introduce me to beer sponsors, who were looking to further penetrate the sports scene in Singapore. In return for their beer, I promised them exclusivity as the official beer suppliers and splashed their logo all over the marketing info for the event (see attached).

People – I leveraged off my network of friends and friends of friends to spread the word.  As it was an evening of rugby and beer and very good value at S$100/ticket (as many rugby players would drink 2 – 3 times that per night in Singapore), it was really not very difficult to sell tickets.

I ended with a cool S$15,000 in cash from the evening, not to mention some great exposure for my expedition!

NB:  It took me two attempts to get this right,  the first event I ran, I paid too much for the venue and the food and drinks, did not charge enough for ticket prices and in short, was a great deal of work for what ended up to be only a few hundred dollars profit.

3. Hold an auction

auctionThe ingredients to run a successful auction to raise funds are:

  • Companies/organisations who will donate auction items
  • An auctioneer
  • A venue
  • Inspired people who want to buy your prizes

I held two auctions where I managed to get a number of very attractive prizes to auction off and raised a total of $25,000.

Examples of the prizes were vacations in  luxury villas on tropical islands, tickets to sporting events , cruises on yachts, rock-climbing lessons and more.  In return for the gifts, I offered the donors exposure and marketing during the auction and the build-up to the auction.

The trick here is to find the most valuable prizes you can, that people will be prepared to pay as much money as possible for as they may still be getting it cheaper in the auction than what the normal list price is.  To obtain these prizes, I looked for donors who were looking for more exposure for their products, who would be in a position to donate a product or service which may not necessarily COST them a great deal but has high value to the ordinary consumer.

You will also need an auctioneer, a venue and  people to attend the auction.  For the venue, please refer to ideas from lesson 2 above.  For the auctioneer, if you can’t find a friend or a friend of a friend, then do what I did and do it yourself (a terrifying experience I must admit but if you want it badly enough, you will do it).  One way I found to attracting people to the auction was offering a free 45 minute inspiring keynote presentation by myself first on the evening, followed immediately by the auction.

4. Apply for grants/scholarships

scholarshipsWhen I attended the Outward Bound School in New Zealand many years ago, I was first introduced to the world of grants and scholarships for outdoor activities.  These come in many forms and can be from lotteries commissions who are forced by the governing bodies in certain countries to donate proceeds back to the community, to private companies who offer their own grants.  Generally you will need to make a written submission to a panel of judges and then wait some time to hear the  decision.  The important thing here is to do your homework as some of the scholarships run on one or two yearly cycles, so you may need to apply one to two years before your expedition departs and ensure you do not miss the cut-off.

Rather than pasting a list of links here which may soon be outdated, please use GOOGLE to find grants and scholarships which are relevant to your expedition/adventure.

5.  Mortgage your house

mortgageWhen people ask for me for sponsorship advice, I often ask them this question “How important is this expedition to you? If you do not manage to raise the money through sponsorship, are you prepared for example to re-mortgage your house to raise the funds?”

This is often met by silence, but those individuals who reply that they would do anything it took to get the money together are the genuine articles. These are the people I know are completely committed to the expedition.  On the other hand, there are some who treat sponsorship as a paid holiday and who have the belief that if they do not get sponsorship, they will not proceed.  They have no intention of putting ‘skin in the game’, and are not prepared to commit any of their own money.

If your expedition means enough to you, taking a loan/mortgage is a potential option and I know some people who have successfully done this and paid it back over the next few years.  It does not necessarily have to be as extreme as mortgaging your property, however even continuing working in your day job for an extra few months may be the best option all round.  I have only ever embarked on one expedition that was 100% fully sponsored, the rest I have committed a significant portion of my own cash and time.

I hope this article helps you.Good luck on your journey!








Posted on February 21, 2016, in Rowing Home, Sponsorship and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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